CIA Director Warns Russia Against Use of Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine

William J. Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, met with his Russian counterpart in Turkey on Monday to warn Russia against the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, a White House spokesman said.

The talks in Ankara — the highest level face-to-face meetings between senior Russian and American officials since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February — were seen as part of the administration’s efforts to step up its communications with senior officials in Russia, which has made numerous veiled threats about using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

The National Security Council said the meeting was not in any way to negotiate or to discuss any settlement of the war in Ukraine. Ukraine was briefed in advance on the trip, the spokesman said.

President Biden has insisted that Ukraine, and not the United States, will dictate if and when negotiations commence to end the war. But a disagreement has emerged at the highest levels of the U.S. government over whether to press Ukraine to seek a diplomatic end to the war with Russia, with America’s top general, Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urging in closed-door meetings that Ukraine should negotiate to cement its recent gains.

In a post on the messaging app Telegram on Monday, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, the commander of the Ukrainian military, said he had spoken to General Milley and reiterated the country’s position on possible negotiations: Russia must withdraw before any talks are possible.

“The Ukrainian military will not accept any negotiations, agreements or compromise decisions,” he wrote.

U.S. and European leaders see their goal for now as keeping the war contained to Ukraine and deterring President Vladimir V. Putin from using a tactical nuclear weapon or another weapon of mass destruction in the conflict. Mr. Putin has denied that Moscow is preparing to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, but senior American officials say that senior Russian military leaders have recently discussed the possibility of using a tactical nuclear weapon in the country.

Kommersant, a Russian business daily newspaper, reported on Monday that the Russian delegation in Ankara was headed by Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the country’s foreign intelligence service.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, confirmed to Tass, a Russian state news service, that a meeting had taken place. The meeting had been initiated by the United States, he said, but he would not disclose the topics discussed. A C.I.A. spokeswoman declined to comment; the agency never comments on the director’s travel.

Russian and Ukrainian officials have made separate public comments in recent weeks about potential peace negotiations, more than six months after their last known direct talks fell apart. But U.S. officials have said that they do not believe talks will begin soon and that both sides, for now, think that continued fighting will strengthen their eventual negotiating positions.

The National Security Council said that Mr. Burns had planned in the meeting raise the matter of Americans detained in Russia. The Biden administration has been trying to negotiate a prisoner swap with Russia to bring home the W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

Ms. Griner has been detained in Russia since February after she flew into an airport near Moscow with a small amount of hashish oil in her luggage. She was sentenced in August to nine years in prison. Mr. Whelan was sentenced to a 16-year prison term on espionage charges by a Moscow court in 2020.

In August, American and Russian officials said they would use a special channel set up by Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin at their meeting in Geneva last year to negotiate over Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan. U.S. officials have declined to divulge details of that channel. The Biden administration has offered to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States, for the freedom of the two Americans.

Mr. Burns has previously been dispatched to interact with Russian officials over Ukraine. Before Mr. Putin ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Mr. Burns flew to Moscow in November 2021 to tell Russian officials that the United States knew of the Russian plans and would forcefully respond to any invasion. Mr. Burns spoke by video to Mr. Putin, who was in Sochi at the time.

Julian E. Barnes and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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